You have a new client contact at Very Good Valves PLC. He is Alan Actuator, a 40-year-old marketing manager who has come from a background in sales, most recently at Hydro-Dynamics Inc. You are meeting for the first time to hear what he wants from your agency.
He starts off by telling you that he’s never seen much value in media coverage: ‘I’d sooner put the money behind trade shows and collateral for my sales-force’. You wonder what this means for your brand-new digital media proposal. This might not be the best time to ask.
He goes on. ‘Events! That’s what brings the orders in. I expect you saw the crowds we got at the Hydro Horse Trials. That’s my idea of publicity’. You hadn’t – mainly because Hydro’s main rival, Hyper-Hydraulics, is the headline sponsor of the Horse of the Year Show.
B2B clients are usually more conservative than B2C. They trust what they know. Most of them (though not all) are reluctant to explore. They are not naturally adventurous. They are often older rather than younger and to some extent ‘set in their ways’.
There are steps we can take to encourage B2B clients to take a few more risks. We know, and we can explain to them, that being different is the heart-and-soul of successful PR. We know that the results can be spectacular. That’s what we want to deliver.
It’s mainly a question of winning their confidence. When they trust us they will be less nervous about stepping off the well-trodden pathway. We must aim to become what David Maister calls ‘trusted advisors’. There are specific things we can do to make this happen.
It’s mostly about how we behave. How we handle meetings, how we seem to be thinking about them 24x7, how we seem to be more knowledgeable about their competitors than they are. Small things, too – how quickly we return their calls, how accurate our written work is, how we have learnt to use the company’s own ‘form-and-fit’ in the way we engage with them.
Most B2B clients have a hard time telling if their PR results are fantastic, ordinary or sub-optimal. But they can all tell if they are getting a great service.
Adrian runs our 'Successful B2B Client Relationships' course in London. The half-day session describes how we can manage our interactions so that these clients allow us to do our best work for them. You can find out more here.